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Thursday, March 05, 2009

The selling message: Establishing equality

Michael Zenga of ZN Custom Builders in Boston started an intriguing thread on, The Best Sales Technique I Have Ever Used. In it, he outlines a construction marketing model of asking a couple of key agenda-setting questions on first meeting prospective clients.

Look at this wording:

When someone comes into my office - I build Modular Homes - before anything happens, I say hello and then "I really appreciate you coming to meet with me today. Would it be ok if we were to set an agenda for our meeting?"

- They always say ok

"Great. We meet a lot of people and typically on a first meeting we are just trying to find out if we might be a good fit. You will have some questions for us about design options and price, and we will have some questions for you about your ideal home, time frame and budget. At any time you might realize that we are never going to be a fit, and if you do that's ok. Will you tell me if that happens?"

- always get an "oh sure."

"And is it ok if we tell you if we think it isn't going to be a good fit?"

- certainly!

"Ok so all we ask is that if we get to the end of the meeting and we think it might be a fit that we take 5 minutes at the end of the meeting and figure out what a next step might be, is that ok?"

- No problem!

Aha, the contractor is now establishing equality with the client, not subservience, and the prospective customer knows that the contractor can -- and will -- be ready to walk away if the client isn't serious about doing business.
Fair enough, but how do you establish your brand sufficiently to pull this off? After all, you have to attract enough potential clients -- leads -- to comfortably know that when you meet one potential client and turn him or her away, there is always another to follow. This gives you confidence and prevents you from looking desperate for the business. (Sure you can fake it even if you are desperate, but it is much easier to be real and know that indeed you can walk away anytime you aren't happy with what you are seeing.)

Here, I looked into the background of why Zenga posted this thread. He is offering an e-book on Internet marketing (free) , Insiders Guide to Expanding Your Business on the Internet, which I have a sneaking suspicion is a brand-building initiative to attract consulting clients and maybe to build traffic for his own business (though I couldn't find any overt selling of this sort on the materials I reviewed.)

In his materials, I found he makes effective use of the ballpark estimate technique. That is, in exchange for receiving client contact information, he will provide a price range for his potential services large enough that it isn't firm, but clear enough to show the potential client what to expect. This is a good approach, I think, because it weeds out people who are unrealistically low in their pricing expectations, while not tying you down to a specific number until you inspect and determine what is right.

Zenga's e-book contains other materials including advice on how to avoid using the conventional Internet leads services, the effective use of video testimonials, and the like. It is worth your review.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like Zenga makes good points. Has anyone used these type of techniques before? Did they work? I would be interested to see what type of feedbqck people got.

Anonymous said...

I bought the book and it is a mix of Sandler sales techniques and construction based conversations. Zenga is all about getting the leverage back in your favor and not seeming desparate. As somone once said, people want to buy something, not be sold something.

Construction Marketing Ideas said...

These are worthy comments. I'm not wildly sold on the overall Sandler package -- it may stretch good technique to manipulation in the wrong hands -- but agree with the basic principal that we need confidence in ourselves and a willingness to say 'no' to bad deals if we are to be successful.
Of course, this is where (effective) marketing comes into the picture: If we can pre-condition people to want to do business with us on reasonable and respectful business terms, we will avoid the desperation that causes people to run for the hills or push back to the point that no money is made on our work.